But try to convince board members and the C-suite of a hospital, health system, or large physician practice to free up the resources to prevent burnout and you may find yourself out of breath and red in the face. Despite the fact that burnout costs so much—more medical errors, worse patient satisfaction, less engagement in improvement initiatives the direct costs of recruiting and replacing physicians and nurses who have left—few leaders are ready to invest in prevention. We shook our heads in collective dismay.
Linzer walked to his desk and held up a framed watercolor. Painted by Linzer’s brother, Daryl Wofford, “The Scribe,” depicts three individuals in an exam room: on the right side, a physician and a patient in conversation, and on the left, a young man typing on a laptop.
“This is our goal. This is what we want.” Linzer said. “A physician, freed from typing by the scribe, who is connecting with her patient—and a patient, who is happy because she is getting what she came for—a healing connection with her care provider. Relationships drive satisfaction. And that’s true for patients and care providers.”
I asked about the scribe program at Hennepin County.
Another aspect of burnout prevention that leaders would do well to consider: a healthy workplace and the opportunity to derive meaning from work (caring for patients instead of slogging through data entry) increase the likelihood that your organization will avoid the substantial costs of replacing a physician (estimated to be $500,000 a piece) and help build a cadre of physicians who are loyal to their organization and able to engage in improvement initiatives that will move the needle on the performance metrics that keep top leaders up at night.
I realize that the work of executive leaders requires juggling many priorities. But careful stewardship of an organization’s most precious resource—its people—and prioritizing the development of healthy, high-performing clinical teams seems like a no-brainer to me.